Park N Shop plan moves for­ward

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

A de­vel­oper’s pro­posal to build 12 apart­ments in the Park N Shop plaza moved for­ward Tues­day, when the plan­ning com­mis­sion gave the plan its bless­ing.

The project will now move on to city coun­cil for fi­nal ap­proval.

DSM Com­mer­cial is seek­ing to de­mol­ish the shut­tered M&T Bank build­ing at the cor­ner of South Main Street and Ap­ple Road and re­place it with a three­story build­ing con­tain­ing 10,600 square feet of re­tail space on the first floor and 12 apart­ments on the sec­ond and third

floors. There would be 10 four-bed­room apart­ments and two two-bed­room apart­ments for a to­tal of 44 be­d­rooms.

Most of the ex­ist­ing, re­cently ren­o­vated re­tail space at the shop­ping cen­ter would re­main, though plans call for de­mol­ish­ing 6,400 square feet of the western-most por­tion of the build­ing – which Park N Shop Liquors oc­cu­pied be­fore it moved else­where in the shop­ping cen­ter – to pro­vide more park­ing and cre­ate an end-cap unit.

Mike Hoff­man, a lawyer for DSM, said the com­pany aims to cre­ate a walk­a­ble, com­mu­nity-ori­ented feel to the shop­ping cen­ter.

He con­ceded the apart­ments would most likely be rented by univer­sity stu­dents but noted that there are al­ready a num­ber of mixed-use build­ings fea­tur­ing stu­dent apart­ments along South Main Street.

“At 12 units, that’s a drop in the bucket in com­par­i­son, so it’s hardly in­sert­ing that char­ac­ter into the cor­ri­dor or chang­ing or al­ter­ing that char­ac­ter,” he said.

DSM of­fi­cials have said pre­vi­ously that they want to at­tract “com­mu­nity-type ameni­ties” to the pro­posed re­tail space as well as the three ex­ist­ing va­can­cies. Such busi­nesses could in­clude a cof­fee shop, an ice­cream shop or a restau­rant, they said.

Last sum­mer, the cen­ter wel­comed two new stu­dent­cen­tric busi­nesses: D.P. Dough, a late-night cal­zone spot, and Good Un­cle, a de­liv­ery-only food ser­vice that op­er­ates out of a build­ing be­hind the main re­tail strip.

DSM would not dis­close any other pos­si­ble ten­ants.

“We’re ap­proached very of­ten by po­ten­tial ten­ants, but we’ve been ex­tremely se­lec­tive,” Man­ag­ing Part­ner Tripp Way said last fall. “We don’t want to just fill it with any ten­ant.”

DSM pur­chased the 5-acre shop­ping cen­ter in 2014 – af­ter the pre­vi­ous owner aban­doned a highly con­tro­ver­sial pro­posal to re­place the bank build­ing with a Wawa gas sta­tion – and held two com­mu­nity meet­ings to gain feed­back from neigh­bors be­fore com­ing to the plan­ning com­mis­sion.

The plan orig­i­nally called for a drive-thru cof­fee shop, but DSM elim­i­nated that af­ter many res­i­dents voiced con­cerns about in­creased traf­fic and noise from the speaker.

How­ever, some res­i­dents who spoke at Tues­day’s meet­ing still had con­cerns.

Gene Lara, who lives across from the shop­ping cen­ter at the cor­ner of Winslow and Ap­ple roads, said he is wor­ried about the ad­di­tional traf­fic the project could bring.

“I’m re­ally con­cerned about the im­pact it will have on the neigh­bor­hood,” Lara said.

He also ar­gued that the new build­ing should be turned around so that most of its frontage is on South Main Street, rather than Ap­ple Road.

Hoff­man re­sponded that is not pos­si­ble be­cause some ex­ist­ing ten­ants in the shop­ping cen­ter have leases that dic­tate DSM can­not build a struc­ture that blocks the view of their store from South Main Street.

Lara’s part­ner, Bill Wersinger, said he feels there has been too much de­vel­op­ment along South Main Street.

“What’s next, the BP sta­tion is go­ing to be de­vel­oped?” he said. “They’re go­ing to keep mov­ing into Old Ne­wark. Ba­si­cally, we’re los­ing our neigh­bor­hood.”

Jean White, who lives in Not­ting­ham Green, said she would rather the new build­ing be of­fice space in­stead of apart­ments.

Hoff­man replied that hav­ing res­i­den­tial space cre­ates more of a com­mu­nity feel.

“The res­i­den­tial as­pect, hav­ing peo­ple on site, cre­ates that en­ergy and cre­ates that ex­cite­ment and pro­vides us ben­e­fits that would not have the same im­pact on traf­fic as a pure of­fice,” he said.

Rosie Zappo, whose house backs up to the Park N Shop, praised DSM for im­prov­ing the shop­ping cen­ter.

“I’ve lived here since I was 12 years old, on and off, and the place was a night­mare,” Zappo said. “We had rats, we had pros­ti­tutes, we had drug deal­ers, and I’m not Mrs. Kravitz say­ing, ‘Ab­ner,’. This was the re­al­ity of liv­ing in this house.”

She added that DSM has in­stalled sur veil­lance cam­eras, im­proved the park­ing lot and has been re­spon­sive to con­cerns from neigh­bors.

“They do what they say they do, they’re open to sug­ges­tions and they’re great neigh­bors,” Zappo said.

The plan­ning com­mis­sion unan­i­mously ap­proved DSM’s re­quest to di­vide the prop­erty into two parcels and re­zone the 1.13-acre par­cel con­tain­ing the new mixed-use build­ing from gen­eral busi­ness to cen­tral busi­ness district. It also ap­proved a com­pre­hen­sive plan amend­ment, ma­jor sub­di­vi­sion, a spe­cial-use per­mit and a 27-space park­ing waiver, for which DSM will pay the city $100,000.

If ap­proved by coun­cil, the $5 mil­lion project is slated to be com­pleted by spring 2019.

SUBMITTED IM­AGE

A bird’s-eye view shows the lay­out of the pro­posed project at the Park N Shop. The new build­ing would be built at the cor­ner of South Main Street and Ap­ple Road, while most of the ex­ist­ing re­tail space would re­main.

SUBMITTED IM­AGE

An artist’s ren­der­ing shows how the pro­posed mixed-use project at the Park N Shop would look from Ap­ple Road.

SUBMITTED IM­AGE

An artist’s ren­der­ing shows how the pro­posed mixed-use project at the Park N Shop would look from South Main Street

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